God is not silent

by Jeff Hood

God is not silent.

We sang. We swayed. The movement moved us. We were home. Melodies danced in the stratosphere. Every note escaped into the cosmos. Knowledge of where they went was fleeting. Deeper and deeper they traveled. The sound became dimmer and dimmer. Where had they gone? The silence was deadly. In the midst of it all, there was some hope that the lost notes would be heard again. In the yearning, something faint met the ear. Every once in a while, it told us of what was to come. In the last days, the melodies grew louder. We sang. We swayed. The movement moved us. We were home.

[Refrain]
Something got a hold of me
Oh yes it did one day
Something got a hold of me
I went to a meeting one night
And my heart wasn’t right
Something got a hold of me
(Repeat)

In my younger years, we lived in the evening grass. In the midst of the southern heat, we unfolded those old rusty lawn chairs. Each time I sat down, I was concerned that the old plastic straw would no longer hold me up. For years and years, they never failed us. My grandmother sat at the head of the circle. For hours, she preached. Heaven was always the central theme. The choir was the old red family barn. I heard all that came before singing their affirmations. Amongst the fireflies, I dreamed. Oh God, I dreamed. Love eternal. Beauty neverending. The space started to change. Amidst our worship, it was almost as if we could touch it. Though darkness inevitably found us, we carried heaven…or maybe heaven carried us.

It was at a revival
On the mourners bench
I was filled with misery
The same God
That touched my mother
He laid His hands on me
That’s why I say
[Refrain]

John Fields wrote the song. Rev. James Cleveland took it to the masses. Jim Jones blessed it in San Francisco. The people were forever changed. So was I.

Words. Melodies. Movement. Incarnation. I’d never seen anything like it. I moved in closer. Then, I moved in closer still. The faded colors could not hide what was happening. The people were worshipping God. I don’t mean Jim Jones. I mean the one true God.

They were singing
“Come Ye That Loves The Lord”
And I thought they were singing to me
Something hit me
Up over my head
And run right to my feet
I never shall forget it
[Refrain]

Repeatedly, the people prostrated themselves in thanksgiving. The faces were desperate for deeper connection to God. The Holy Ghost moved like lightening through that sanctuary. The more I watched…the more I realized that the Spirit was moving like lightning through me. That song kept hitting over and over again. God was there. God was here. For a few moments, I was back in Peoples Temple. I was worshipping. We were rehearsing for what was to come. Though many of their physical lives would end in tremendous tragedy, I knew right then and there that all was not lost. Heaven could never deny such love. Heaven could never deny such beauty. Heaven could never deny such fire. If it did, then it wouldn’t be Heaven.

It was the Holy Ghost (Holy Ghost)
Yes (Holy Ghost)
Yes (Holy Ghost)
Holy Ghost (Holy Ghost)
Holy Ghost (Holy Ghost)
Holy Ghost (Holy Ghost)
Holy Ghost (Holy Ghost)
Yes

[Refrain]

It didn’t matter who it was, I’d always wondered about the singing. Why would people want to sing at a funeral? I didn’t understand until I lost someone very close to me. Throughout my life, my grandmother had held my hand when it counted. When I found out, tears rolled down my face. I don’t cry for many…but I did cry for her. When the service started, I didn’t care what anybody said. I just wanted to stay in my brain. I just wanted to stay in my heart. I just wanted… Then, I heard an old melody. As the music played, I was transformed and taken to another place. There, I saw my grandmother. Tenderly, she declared, “Go on back and I’ll be waiting for you.”

It was the Holy Ghost (Holy Ghost)
Yes (Holy Ghost)
Holy Ghost
Holy Ghost (Holy Ghost)
Holy Ghost (Holy Ghost)

Makes me walk right (Holy Ghost)
Makes me talk right (Holy Ghost)
Sing right (Holy Ghost)
Pray right (Holy Ghost)

It keeps me (Holy Ghost)
Saved me (Holy Ghost)

Death is never silent. Terror never wins. There was something more… something to be heard.

“They’re all evil!” “God has left that miserable place!” “Only demons live down there!” The words were still ringing in my ear as I approached the pavilion. In the midst of my fear, I happened upon something that I couldn’t believe. Mine eyes seemed to be failing me. The entire pavilion was full of music. Damn good music. Hundreds and hundreds of people moved and swayed to every note. The singer belted out beautiful words. The drums kept the time, and made us forget about time. Everything was beautiful. These people were worshipping. God was in our midst. We were all changed. Souls were transformed. They were bolstered for whatever lay ahead. In less than 24 hours, they would all be dead. In the midst of the terror, I know that the music led them on.

God is not silent.

(Rev. Dr. Jeff Hood is a Baptist pastor, theologian and activist living and working in North Carolina. Dr. Hood’s extensive work has appeared in numerous media outlets, including in the Dallas Morning News, Huffington Post, Fort Worth Star Telegram, Atlanta Journal Constitution, Los Angeles Times, WIRED magazine and on ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, and NPR. He writes regularly at http://revjeffhood.com/. His previous article for the jonestown report is The Theology of Jonestown: Radical Explorations in Redemption. His other articles in this edition are Phenomenology / Healing & Rev. Jim Jones, Dreams and Nightmares: Prayers to the Father and Microphones Ain’t Antennas. He can be reached at jeffrey.k.hood@gmail.com.)

Originally posted on September 26th, 2018.

Last modified on October 7th, 2020.
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